Last week on Top Chef Seattle, the unusual ingredient dishes were so disgusting that head judge Tom Collichio refused to give any of the chefs the $10,000 prize. As a result, several chefs were knocked off their pedestals and a few egos were bruised.
Padma Lakshmi and Marilyn Hagerty, food writer for the Grand Forks Herald, introduce this week's Quickfire Challenge. Marilyn has been writing about middle-American restaurants for 30 years. About her career, Marilyn says, "It's been a hoot." Too cute! One day, I hope to look back on my career and say it's been a hoot.
The challenge: each chef must create a sweet and savory holiday dish reflecting his or her cultural heritage. The cheftestants have only 30 minutes and must share one knife. The twisty mustache gets first dibs on the knife, so the other chefs get creative with graters, meat slicers, spatulas, pizza cutters, and busted scissors.
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Josh Valentine – Johnnycake with bacon, cheddar, chili compound butter, and sous vide egg. Marilyn says, "The little sweetness is good." Danyele McPherson – bread pudding with ham, raisins, and pecans. Marilyn tells Danyele, "Leftover ham never tasted this good." Lizzie Binder – Bobotie with ground lamb, egg custard, and roasted apricots.
Sheldon Simeon – banana lumpia with peanut butter mousse, coconut, and pineapple. Padma calls it "sophisticated." Micah Fields – pineapple and pork tamale with charred tomato and tomatillo salsa. Bart Vandaele – waffles with celery three ways, apple puree, chicken, and prosciutto.
Brooke Williamson – apple crostata with cheddar cheese, candied pine nuts, and apple salad. Padma says, "It tastes very homey." Brooke doesn't take "homey" as a compliment. Stefan Richter – smoked salmon tartare, potate latkes with sour cream and chives. We learn that Stefan has married the same woman twice, and Marilyn quips, "That doesn't show a lot of imagination."
Josie Malave – Tamale with habanero masa, mangos, and papaya. "Nice combination of tastes," says Marilyn. John Tesar – Bondino of Parmesan-Reggiano, figs and apricots in port wine and Truvia caramel. We learn that Marilyn likes her port wine. Eliza Gavin – Hush puppies two ways: shrimp and sweet potato, sausage and corn. Marilyn says it tastes good despite not enough sweetness.
Overall, Marilyn says the dishes were an "amazing display of creativity." But, of course, some weren't so fantastic. Marilyn tells Bart that there were too many different things going on with his waffle. Micah is shocked to hear Marilyn call his tamale a (dry) taco. Dude needs to chill. He looks like he wants to cut throats with that one knife.
On the flip side, Marilyn likes Josh, Stefan, and Brooke's dishes the best. She says: Josh's basic dessert was appealing, Stefan's dish was attractive and tasty, and Brooke took her apple pie to another level. In the end, Brooke's "homey" apple pie wins, so she get immunity.
Married couple (and actors) Anna Faris (Scary Movie) and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) join Padma in the kitchen. The chefs will cook the food for their upcoming welcome home party at Chihuly Garden and Glass Cafe. The winner of this challenge wins a Toyota Prius. Unless they all suck again.
The judges are Anna, Chris, Padma, Tom, Gail Simmons, and Rick Moonen of RM Seafood. Coincidentally, Rick is Dallas John's boss.
There is a massive shortage of drama this week! Instead, I'll share a few observations: John is door-challenged. Josh and Stefan are BFFs and share a Top Chef good luck charm. Aww, that's cute!
Do you know what isn't cute? Danyele's eyeliner. The girl needs to lay off the extra-thick Sharpie. When Danyele seeks sympathy for her atrocious
eyeliner meat, Josh is all like, So sad, but I'm not here pet your hair and sing you Soft Kitty to make you feel better. I'm here to win. For a split second, I love Josh, but then I remember his favorite mode of transportation is the douche canoe. However, if Micah doesn't calm the hell down soon, he'll be my newest most hated cheftestant.
Sheldon – braised Okinawan pork belly with seared scallop and rice congee. Anna says, "I felt like every bite was a surprise." Bart – loin of elk with cherry beer sauce and mushroom couscous. Padma and Chris are both impressed with Bart's dish. Rick says, "It could use a touch of salt, but other than that it's tender and delicious." Chris adds, "If this isn't a front-runner, this is going to be the best f-ing night of my life." Stefan – German gulasch with marjoram bread dumplings and sour cream. Padma thinks the gulasch is rich and delicious.
Brooke – lamb-stuffed squid on black rice with coconut milk. Nearly in unison, they all go, "Whoa." Chris's eye go wide and he says, "It's got every flavor!" Tom gives Brooke kudos for being ballsy. Rick agrees with Tom. Kristen – Delice de bourgogne tortelloni. Padma thinks the dried apricots and the cream cheese go really well together. Rick says, "I think it's a perfect bite. I couldn't wait to go back for another one." Micah – braised pork ribs with celery root puree, grilled apples and celery leaf salad. The general consensus is that there is too much cream. Rick adds that some of the components don't add anything to the dish.
Lizzie – crusted wild king salmon with radish and beet salad. Gail isn't impressed with Lizzie's dish. Eliza – Elk ribeye with elk sausage polenta, spiced carrots, and huckleberry port sauce. Tom says it's a really bland dish. Danyele – pan-roasted wild boar, hoppin' john and tomato-bacon marmalade. Tom says, "It's sliced so thin that you can't even chew it." Gail adds, "I thought it was totally bland and cooked unevenly."
Josh – roasted pork shoulder and grilled corn puree with succotash and fennel apple salad. Everyone agrees that Josh's dish needs more seasoning. Josie – Malbec braised short ribs, pork belly, polenta with cippolini onions and figs. Rich says that Josie's dish sounds better than it tastes. John – seafood chowder with cockles, Manila clams, crab, mussels, and sockeye salmon. Anna shares, "John's chowder really is everything I crave when I'm not in Seattle." Padma adds, "Every component of this chowder is cooked beautifully."
"This is clearly head and shoulders above what we had in the last challenge," says Tom. Sounds like someone is getting a new car (albeit a tiny one)!
Padma calls John, Kristen, Brooke, and Sheldon to the judges' table… they prepared the best dishes of the night!
Padma asks Brooke if she took a risk because she had immunity. Brooke says, "I did. Since I've been here, I've been holding back a little bit out of the fear of doing something a little bit out of the box and getting yelled at for it." Tom assures Brooke that if she continues to cook like this, nobody is going to yell at her.
Rick compliments John's chowder; John looks proud. Kristen's combination of dried fruit and cream cheese earns her a job well done. Padma tells Sheldon that his dish was full of soul. Rick announces Brooke as the winner, adding that she "showed a little bit more creativity and a real balance of flavors."
Brooke wins the Toyota Prius.
Out with the good and in with the bad: Micah, Eliza, Josie, Josh, and Danyele. Tom explains, "There were a lot of good dishes tonight. I don't think your dishes were bad dishes, but there are definitely some solid reason why all of you are here."
Rick tells Micah that his celery root was too grainy. Pamda suggests to Josh, stop boasting that you're known for your pork because your pork sucks. (Well, she was a little nicer about it.) Tom addresses Eliza next, saying, "The elk was unevenly cooked and the carrots were kind of dried out and didn't have much flavor." Danyele goes on too long about how uncomfortable she is in the competition. Tom tells her stop second guessing herself.
Eliza is sent home.
While the fighting and gimmicky challenges get old after a while, a tiny bit of drama/personality is needed
to keep me awake. Thank goodness for Chris and Anna this week, because the rest of the episode was slightly boring. Chris and Anna seem like a lovely Hollywood couple… and funny too!
TELL US – SEEMS LIKE THE WINNERS AND THE LOSERS ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE. WHO DO YOU THINK ARE THE FRONT RUNNERS?
Chris and Anna poke fun at the Bachelorette
Photo credit: Bravo